My wife and I just watched the Choice. Then I scanned
the reviews, above. What is it about Frontline that
apparently causes reviewers to swoon? We thought the program
was pitiful. It was totally without value or insights (except those
peddled by your best-selling authors, which simply reflected the
the biases in their books.
Overall, the program was clearly far more negative about Clinton than
Dole. That indeed might account for reaction of the reviewers.
No real choice? How about the record? Dole has fought and
voted against just about every social program
in the past 30 years beginning with Medicare. He has always
opposed the minimum wage, family leave, environmental, worker
protection programs. You show him in that losing the battle to
control the budget-- you don't show him leading the pack
that gave the biggest tax cuts to the wealthy in '82 and
produced most of our debt the country now struggles with.
You don't show Clinton pushing for tax increases to begin
closing the deficit. (Now that took courage!)
What do you mean, there is no choice?
What is worse, though, about the program is its incredible
naivete. Thinking that those authors really know their
subjects and portrayed them accurately. Thinking that what
colleagues say about Dole as Senate leader is something special.
(I've been around Washington and on the Hill off and on
for 30 years -- all leaders get rave reviews by their peers.)
Although I found your program interesting I disagreed with
its premise that we need to know the candidates much more
intimately in order to make sound choices. I believe that
we can have excellent, probably even better choices, if we
allow candidates some modicum of privacy. By depriving
candidates of every last shred of privacy I believe we
alienate many good people that would serve our country well.
I believe this
I believe this occurs at every level of government.
Consider the recent polls indicating that young people are
much less attracted to the idea of being president and
parents of young people indicate that they do not want their
children to be president. Who can blame them. Today's media
have no shame when it comes to displaying the most intimate
details of a candidate's life and past. And we as viewers
are just as bad in watching it and demanding more. If you
take suggestions for story lines consider this one:
By depriving our public servants of their privacy, we deprive
ourselves of much needed service.
Thank you Frontline for another absorbing television
experience. Your program "The Choice 96'" revealed more
about the two candidates than anything else to date. I
will venture that nothing of the future will come close to
the revelations you so skillfully presented.
The lives of these two men are proof that even today it
still matters not our origins and background. Anyone of us
can accomplish anything we desire in this country of
Your program should be required viewing for all Americans
who will make their important choice come election day.
I will continue to look forward to comparable programming
in the days ahead.
Federal Way, WA
Shame on you PBS! Your "side-by-side" picture of Dole and Clinton with Dole all
shadowy like some sort of vampire while Clinton has like a beacon of light is a
disgrace! Surely you must wonder why there are those of us who do not want you to
have ANY of our tax money!
Thank you for showing this un-bias program on the two candidates.
In a time when you are bombarded by the libral pro-Clinton
media (CNN, NBC, CBS, and ABC) it is a relief knowing that you
can still trust PBS to report the truth.
Just watched the show profiling Bill Clinton and Bob Dole.
In general it was even-handed, informative and interesting.
However, I have two complaints:
1) The conclusion, that Clinton and Dole are "brothers
under the skin" is not only shallow, but completely
contradicts the rest of what was shown for the preceding
2) At one point the statement was made that in the '80s,
"Reagan's economics had plunged the country into debt."
About the kindest thing that can be said about this
is that it somewhat misstated the truth.
Reagan's economics boiled down to this: Cut taxes
and revenues will grow. Taxes were cut ... revenues grew.
But Congress increased spending even faster (More than
a dollar and a hlaf of increased spending for every
dollar of increased revenue).
Therefore, what plunged us deeper into debt was the
irresponsibility of Congress - in spite of Reagan's
Facts are good. Use them.
Just outstanding! The best most comprehensive political piece Ive
seen in a long time...perhaps ever...just outstanding!!!!
Your presentation of these two men was acrobatically biased
against Clinton. You went to extraordinary lengths to
minimize the opportunity of Clinton's legion of friends
to contribute their perspectives on him, and instead
gathered a group of anti-Clinton writers to tell us why
they think he's in effect an unprincipled and dishonest
This warped view was "balanced" by journalists like
Kramer and Woodward who are at essence Dole advocates --
people who sing Dole's virtues while they explain away
and minimize his deficiencies.
I have long admired the good and often superb journalism of
FRONTLINE. This is why I am so disappointed in this hatchet
job on such an important story. I've never written in
response to a story before, but this was just too
extraordinary to bear in silence.
Rarely have I ever been so impressed with Frontline as I was with The Choice '96
(dealing with Clinton vs. Dole) The subject of the show was not printed on my
schedule, and when I turned it on and saw the topic, I nearly turned it right off
fully expecting a typical hatchet job on Republicans and shameless promotion of all
things "liberal." However, I was not only surprised by the fairness but, indeed,
moved by the content. You presented the two candidates very well. I must admit, I
was one who previously felt the Corporation for Public Broadcasting should be
axxed. It seems, however, that you got the message, and it shows. Please show
this edition again because I missed a good part of the beginning.
As is nearly always the case, I found your show captivating. And again, as in most
cases, there was something at which I would take issue. Though in general and
specific I thought the show was top notch, your ending was, to say the least,
puzzling to me.
After spending two hours detailing the many profound differences between the two
candidates, you ended the show with a barely supported claim that the two
candidates are really almost the same. Your evidence? They both will compromise.
But compromise is the very essence of the political process!
Ask the President why he signed a welfare bill he professes not to like, and ask Mr.
Dole why he is endorsing a tax proposal that seems inconsistent with his record,
and their answers will remind you of the profound differences between these two
An example of the very best of journalism. It gave us insights
that very few of us would have access to or be able to
develop. And the program offered lessons that extend far
beyond these two individuals. A very powerful process
using thoughtful, and articulate observers. I'll order the tape
tomorrow and share it with as many people as I can.
This was a very interesting show - but it failed to help us make a choice.
The choice we have to make is really not a choice between men, but between
policy options. As your program pointed out, the two major candidates offer
very few differences. Perhaps if we'd heard a little about Nader, or
perhaps even Perot, and their policies, there would be something useful for
us to think about.
It's not about the character issue. It's about who do they represent.
There's only one candidate who speaks about any kind of opposition to the
corporate takeover of democracy.
J.C. & C.R.
"The Choice '96" is the most substantive program that I have
seen about the presidential candidates.
The program was candid, thoughtful and non-partisan.
I hope that PBS will continue this effort to give the public
facts, not political spin. I feel that there is a great
degree of selfishness and self-interest being promoted in
choosing our President that is fundamentally disturbing. We
vote for our favorite program that will benefit us personally
instead of electing leadership with courage and strength
for our country and in no small measure, the world.
Having seen previews for the Dole/Clinton special, I was optimistic
about learning more about the background and origins of each candidate.
Encouraged by PBS' normal commitment to presentation of fact without
frivolous and opinionated word play on the part of the "pundits," I
looked forward to a sincere presentation of both candidates' geneses as
people and as politicians.
Unfortunately, your episode was disappointingly biased and wholly based
on the kind of pseudo-analysis that Frontline usually avoids. Clearly,
the presentation was weighted in favor of Bob Dole, his growth and
commitment as well as his emotional and philosophical dynamism. Dole
was shown crying at least three times, and his experience and learning
were seen as productive sources of his tremendous character. Clinton
was shown in positions of angst and defeat; ideally contrasted with
Dole's heroism was Clinton's draft-dodging. Contrary to Dole's lessons
from Nixon, the Clinton/Fulbright relationship was more of a commentary
on Fulbright's racism than on Clinton.
Finally, the pundits who
tarnished Clinton's image every segment were a nice foil to the homely
men and women who praised Bob Dole at every moment. Your pundits then
managed to hone the issues down to the perfect Dole statement, one even
going so far as to conclude by saying that the issue is a character one
and not at all a policy one. Your pundit then asks us to weigh the
candidates trust, honesty, and integrity. This after two hours devoted
to showing Clinton at his weakest and as the most untrustworthy
candidate. For shame! Comparing Clinton to an evangelist, even trying
to prove that he contrived to make the famous Kennedy photo-op, is bad
journalism and bad service to the public.
I am thoroughly disappointed in the lack of control Frontline exercised
over its analysts. Their shabby pseudo-psychology over simplified the
issues in a way that I usually expect from network television, and
certainly not from PBS. Had the episode been written by Dole Campaign
staffers, I could not have expected anything more biased and
uninformative. I hope that this episode does not sway many viewers,
viewers who will have to look elsewhere to find any Clinton success
(not a one was mentioned). I also hope that this kind of work is not
indicative of the content and style of future Frontline episodes.
Palm Beach Gardens, FL
Although I was unable to watch all of "The Choice '96," I was very impressed with
the half hour that I did catch. It is such a relief that in a time of political
spin and rhetoric, there is still a place to find REAL information on the
candidates. One of these two men will lead us in to the third millenium.
Thankfully PBS is thoughful enough to provide us more insight and information on
them than any "news agency" ever would.
What a poignant, beautiful, elegaic portrait
of Bob Dole. And what a hatchet job on Bill Clinton. Noble
Bob Dole--endlessly strong, silent, stoic; even his strange
support of Nixon is presented as nothing more than an excess
of loyalty. And then there's bubba Bill--hopelessly
self-centered, manipulative, untrustworthy. (I guess you guys
are hedging your bets; in the event that Dole and a Republican
Congress are elected you can certainly wave this program in
their faces as proof that PBS should not be eliminated!) A
particularly nice stroke was ending the program with a
discourse on why we should cast our votes on the basis of
character. Since you so obviously set out to extoll Dole's
and slam Clinton's I think I'll pass on that advice.(And
I'm curious: why is Bill's supposed philandering a character
trait worth beating to death, while Dole's treatment of his
first wife doesn't bear mentioning?) I'm disappointed
FRONTLINE; I had hoped for a fair and compelling comparison
of the candidates and got a Dole promotional film, instead.
Your study of Messrs. Dole and Clinton gave us a thoughtful, incisive look
at the man who will be our next President and the man who will not. I found
myself waiting for the bias that has tainted other Frontline shows, and
being grateful at the end for having found none. It was an engrossing hour.
Thank you for it.
I'm very disappointed to see Ross Perot missing from
"The Choice 96." I expected better, less partisan reporting
from PBS. It is not your place to slant American voters
toward or away from any candidate, but by not including
him in your report, you imply that he is not a real
candidate. Your report is worthy of the Commission on
Thank you so very much for presenting Helen Whitney's superb documentary "The
Choices '96." Viewing it was a humbling experience for me. I came to begin to
appreciate how naive my current grasp of political issues is. No program I have
watched in recent years held me in rapt attention like this one did.
It must have been something like an epiphany for me: I gained a visceral
appreciation for the fallacy of structural analyses as impetus for social
transformation. That is, that strength of personality is still very much
operative as it is so often purported to be in histories.
The breadth and depth of this two hour documentary astounds me. I've seen many
longer documentaries that seem to have conveyed less.
Only now do I have a sense of the person and capabilities of Bob Dole. I am
surprised to rediscover that a responsible vote should be cast with regard not
only to issues and campaigns but also with regard to administrative styles and
strengths of personality. I am chagrined that I had forgotten these.
Again, thank you,
Frontline on October 8, 1996, appalled me. I was astounded at
how pointless and uninformative your program actually was. It
consisted of nothing but a parade of unsubstantiated opinion.
Opinion expressed by many who seemed oddly compelled to express
Who were those people? Who really cares?
None of the coverage informed me about issues facing
our nation. The coverage addressed no issue that would help me decide
who to vote for.
Your coverage wastes my time.
You waste my time.
Thank you for an amazingly insightful program about two very interesting
Americans. This is television at its best, and worthy of a special award. The
only thing missing was perhaps a followup interview of both men, perhaps
together, in which they could respond to their own or each others
charactizations after viewing the program. *That* could be a truly illuminating
It may be that Clinton will go down in history as "The Great Compromiser" or
deal maker, and even though such a title might not be looked upon favorably by
many, it serves the people, as real work actually gets done. In that sense he
seems much more like Lyndon Johnson than JFK or Fulbright. It was more
surprising to realize that Dole is also so pragmatic. It is no wonder that
these last two years has resulted in changes that could never have been
envisioned by their more exptreme colleagues, but yet the public still see the
gains as modest. It also becomes clearer why both of these men actually may
like each other. Although they come from generations with differing values, the
crucible of their own lives has demanded them to respond and rebound from early
pain and failure, something they must recognize in each other. And their
abiding need to work together and towards the middle to achieve difficult
consensus is a personal hallmark of both men which must make them comfortable
with each other.
Again, kudos on a very impressive program.
I watched your program "The Choice of '96" on October 8, 1996 and was
disappointed by the obscene slant your program took.
I've come to expect an interesting and balanced presentation of
information from your programs. This program was very interesting,
not due to the content, but rather due to the presentation which
showed only things favorable about Bob Dole and very little favorable
about Bill Clinton. While I'm no supporter of Bill Clinton I find
this very unfair to him and to your audience whose interests to the
truth were not served by the distorted picture which was presented.
I first thought that this was just my initial impression after seeing
all those testimonials from Bob Dole's Kansas friends followed by
interviews critical of Bill Clinton. This impression was to be
Dole was identified with courageous and independent Kansans, while
Clinton was portrayed as a product of Hot Springs, Arkansas whose
residents comfortably lived with the hypocrisy of illegal gambling.
Dole was said to have an encyclopedic memory who, when speaking in the
senate, knew what every member wanted like a small Kansas town soda
jerk, doing his job well, knew what his customers wanted.
Clinton, on the other hand "Says what [his audiences] want to hear".
The part of the program that removed any doubts about the program's
bias was the description of the two men's religions. Bob Dole, prayer
in breast pocket, was characterized as a stern moral Methodist. Bill
Clinton was defined as a southern Baptist who lives by that religion's
supposed tenet that "Once forgiven always forgiven."
Maybe your program balanced itself out at the end. I don't know since
I couldn't stomach watching the whole thing.
I would like to thank you for your superb program, The Choice, that aired last night
Unfortunately, I missed the first 30 minutes of the broadcast. Your program
represented TV at its finest: a thoughtful, topical, in-depth program.
The program helped inform me as a voter about the two candidates running for office.
And while I don't think that it changed my mind about my vote,
your show explained the two candidates in detail. I may disagree with Bob Dole or
Bill Clinton, but last night's broadcast helped me to understand
why they are the people that they are.
Thank you for producing such a fine documentary piece on our choices for President.
America would be better served if there were more programs like Frontline on the
The Frontline credits listed two women as producers. I find
this perplexing in that the woman's point of view on the
two candidates was totally lacking.
Outside of relatives, the commentators were one white guy
after another white guy, ad nauseum.
The 94 Elections might have been about "white guys" but
this time the women and minorities will be heard. We have
been "hearing" from the "disadvantaged" white guys for two
long years so please give it a rest in your next documentary.
Let's hear comments on these candidates from the majority of
the electorate---all of the minorities!
The "blurb" preceding the actual showing of Frontline that was used to advertise the
program was so slanted against Dole that I was already dismayed about the tone of
the program before I viewed it. The "dark and cloudy" feel of the scenes, the word
pictures, continued throughout the program, while those of Clinton were colorful,
bright (literally) and resulted in a very slanted presentation which disappointed
me greatly in Frontline. I appreciated the effort but not the result. And the
conclusion, that the two men are like brothers, was sick! There is no comparison
between the two as far as character goes, but there was nothing to indicate that in
the whole presentation. Shame, shame on you!
Stevens Point, WI
Your program portraits of Bill Clinton and Bob Dole more aptly would
have been titled What Choice America?
I got no insight into the souls of these men only an affirmation of
what I've learned to expect from career politicians - namely that they
have a vision which extends only as far as the most recent poll,
directed by what can or cannot be drafted into legislation - what
president Clinton has now come to realize.
Did you plan to tease us - showing there is no choice - if so, then why
not present a program profiling the third party candidates? Certainly
a program about the differences between, and visions of, non career
politicians would have made for an intereting program. It would also
have given Frontline an opportunity to take a courageous stand - giving
a wake up call to Americans - there is a choice.
Although it was repeatedly stated in Frontline that Clinton
and Dole are so similar in approach that they might be
brothers, my impression from the rhetoric of the program is
that Dole was being presented as being the man of greater
character. Was that the intent of the Frontline editors?
Excellent job attempting to elect "Bill". I am not buying.
Dole is the man who it seems; not another American should
suffer his blight. Whether economic or physical. It comes
across in his weeping (Doles'). The President however can
weep in a single step on cue and fake whatever necessary.
It was a wonderful production. Thank you for providing such valuable service. It was
informative, entertaining and thought provoking.
I am a supporter of Bill Clinton. I found your most recent program aired 10/8/96 to
be excessively one-sided in favor of Bob Dole. This program cannot be considered a
documentary anymore than one should consider Oliver Stone's "Nixon" accurate and
complete, notwithstanding its entertainment value. I am concerned at how blatantly
unfair (and meaningless) the contrasting of each candidate was and that this seemed
more like a paid political endorsement than the typical quality programing I expect
from PBS. How can you entitle this "Choice 96"?
Thank you for the enlightening comment that both Clinton and Dole are
married to powerful women. However, additional insight into the influence
their wives have had on these gentlemen would have been appreciated.
In your report, and all other reports, we see Senator Dole's daughter
from a previous marriage. Why is it that there was no report on Mr. Dole's
first wife, their relationship, and divorce?
Excellent! Excellent! Excellent!
This is what my wife had to say about your show, Choice 96,
that aired here on Tuesday, Oct. 8th. She felt that you were
fair to both men in pointing out their strengths, weaknesses,
Although some of the comments did not paint the president in
the best of lights where his character is concerned, they were
the truth, and the truth is what this country must stand for.
We haven't watched much of Frontline in the past for a variety
of reasons, but now are anxious to see what you have in store
for us in the future.
p.s. A rerun of the show before the election would be great as I
missed some of the beginning. My wife saw it all.